On a Cold Winter's Night #Barnardoboy #Canada

On a cold winter’s evening at the end of December 1903 Emma Fricker took a cup of coffee to her husband, Eli, while he was working in the stable which was next to their home in Friary Street, Guildford.  He was a carman, working for Mr Charles Holden, grocer.  It was necessary for groceries to be delivered regularly, by horse and cart, to the larger homes on the outskirts of town.  At 9.20pm Emma heard a noise from the stable and when she went to investigate, she found her husband unconscious, lying on his back close to the hooves of one of the horses.  Two of her neighbours carried Eli, who was bleeding from a head wound, into the house but although he groaned he did not regain consciousness.  By the time he was seen by a doctor he had died aged only 41.

Visiting Friary Street today, you will see only shops and restaurants and most of the original buildings have been destroyed, but at one end there is a trace of the houses dating from before the time when Eli and Emma lived there with their 9 children.  Another employee of Mr Holden, Thomas Lee, told the borough Coroner that he had shared a beer with Eli Fricker at 8.50 that evening in a nearby beer house and that he had warned him about one of the horses, which was prone to kick, when he returned to the stable.  All agreed that Eli seemed strong and healthy and his skull had not been fractured but his heart was in a bad condition and he was said to have died of syncope.

Mr Holden was generous to the grieving widow as Eli had been an exemplary employee and a concert was organised in the Constitutional Hall to raise funds for the Fricker family.  Despite this generosity it must have been very difficult for Emma to support her children.  Eli’s last child, Agnes Rose Fricker was born in February 1904, 6 weeks after her father’s death.  By 1906 Emma had moved to the Shambles off the High Street. Her 9-year-old son Charles Henry Fricker had been sent to Dr Barnardo’s and in 1905 he had sailed on the SS Dominion with a group of British Home Children to live in Ontario, Canada.  Her younger son William John can be found in 1911 as one of 1073 boys at the Royal Navy Training Establishment in HMS Ganges, Shotley, Suffolk.  Meanwhile most of her daughters went into domestic service.

But this was by no means the end of their stories.  Emma remarried in 1906, becoming Mrs Strange.  Charles Fricker married Pearl Teskey in 1914 and they had ten children.  He died in North Bay, Ontario in 1973.  He had been joined in Canada by his brothers Albert and William and also by his mother Emma and all three also died in Ontario.  William John Fricker had a particularly successful life.  He moved on from training school to the navy throughout World War One and was promoted to officer status in 1918.  After visiting Canada in 1923, he returned to Guildford to marry Amy Ann Lefevre in his smart naval uniform.  Lieutenant Commander William Fricker received the King’s Silver Jubilee medal in 1935 and served with the Canadian navy during World War Two.

You can read more about British Home Children in my earlier blog


  1. What a fascinating family history.

    My great grandfather was killed when a horse kicked him on the head. He's buried on the island of Mull. His widown moved with her children to Glasgow, where life must have been very different.

  2. It must have been so hard for the families when the breadwinner died suddenly.

    1. Yes - impossible. Imagine having to pack up and go into the workhouse!!!! I think I might have chosen prostitution over that... or perhaps crime!

  3. It would have been the Workhouse Board of Guardians who arranged for the boys to go to Dr Barnardo's and sail training as at this time they were trying to keep children out of the Workhouse.

  4. That's a fascinating story Liz. It's sobering that a piece of random bad luck broke up the family, but so heartening to see the resilience of the spirit and that they all triumphed over adversity.

  5. Yes, it's wonderful how people, especially the next generation, just get on with their lives.

  6. How sad - having to give up your children...and how much it reflects the disparity between the 'poor' and the affluent..I am reminded of the poor today, parents giving up food so that their children do not go hungry.Nothing much changes for those at the 'bottom' of the pile.

  7. I've just discovered your wonderful Blog and I'm following you with much joy !
    Have a wonderful New Year,

  8. Thank you, Daniela. I have also found your beautiful site, including the music!